Butternut Squash

One-Pot Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

October 11, 2022
26 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Serves 4-6
Author Notes

A simple stovetop mac and cheese is a thing of beauty — especially when it’s a one-pot affair. Think of this version, made entirely in one pot with earthy butternut squash and hearty fall herbs, as the adult, autumnal version of a childhood classic. To help stabilize the sauce, the pasta is cooked in a mixture of water and evaporated milk. As the pasta cooks, the butternut squash boils alongside it, melting into the sauce and lending it a subtle sweetness and orange hue. Right before serving, white cheddar and Parmesan get mixed into the residual starchy cooking liquid to create a creamy, perfectly emulsified cheese sauce without the need for a roux. The resulting mac and cheese is rich, decadent, and properly cheesy with savory notes of woody fall herbs and tender squash throughout. It’s a bit of kitchen alchemy, and one that will have you wondering why every mac and cheese isn’t a one-pot endeavor.

And before you get started, a word of advice: Once you finish cooking your mac and cheese, let it sit for 10 minutes before serving. The sauce has a tendency to thicken up, so go ahead and thin it out with warm water before serving to achieve your ideal texture. The starchy sauce allows you to add as much water as you need without it breaking or losing its creamy consistency, so don’t be nervous about adding too much. The sauce is stable and reheats surprisingly well, unlike most roux-based mac and cheeses. While the mac and cheese is delicious all on its own, a sprinkling of toasted breadcrumbs would be an ideal way to serve it.
Jesse Szewczyk

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
One-Pot Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 cups (about 1 pound) peeled and seeded butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves (from about 3 sprigs)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves (from about 12 leaves)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups warm water, plus more as needed
  • 1 1/2 cups (1 12-ounce can) full-fat evaporated milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 pound dried pasta, such as medium-sized shells or elbow macaroni
  • 12 ounces sharp white cheddar, grated (about 3 cups)
  • 2 ounces Parmesan, grated (about ⅔ cup), plus more for serving
  1. Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the squash and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring often, until tender enough to smash with a spatula without much resistance and beginning to brown, 15 to 17 minutes. Add the rosemary, sage, and garlic and cook, stirring often, just until the garlic is aromatic and no longer raw, about 1 minute.
  2. Increase the heat to high and add the warm water, evaporated milk, 1½ teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. (The pasta won’t be completely covered by the liquid.) Boil over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the pasta is al dente and about two-thirds of the liquid has evaporated, 12 to 14 minutes. If at any point the liquid evaporates before the pasta is tender, add additional warm water (1/2 cup at a time) and continue cooking.
  3. Remove the pot from the heat and add both cheeses. Stir until the cheese is completely melted and has emulsified into a creamy sauce. Let the pasta sit for 10 minutes. If the sauce becomes too thick, adjust the consistency by adding additional warm water 1/4 cup at a time.
  4. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper and serve immediately with more back pepper and parmesan, if desired.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • queenbeecook
  • Christina DeLouise
    Christina DeLouise
  • Eve Taylor
    Eve Taylor
  • Lisaje7

15 Reviews

Lisaje7 January 24, 2024
This recipe was so easy and so delicious! I will definitely make this again!
Velpew January 16, 2024
This turned out rally pasty, though it did have a good flavor. Someone else suggested putting it in the oven, but then i t wouldn't be a one pot meal.......
Dan F. February 19, 2024
It's still one pot if you have an oven-safe pot - for example, a Dutch oven.
Rochelle November 27, 2022
Absolutely outstanding! Outstanding flavor! Easy to make! Clear and understandable instructions! The result is absolute perfection!
sugarsource November 10, 2022
This was a hit in our household, from kids to grandparents and everyone in-between! I didn't include the rosemary (realized too late we didn't have any), and it was still delicious. It did take me about 5 extra minutes to get the squash to the right consistency, and I needed to add about 1 cup of extra water during the pasta-cooking process. Would definitely make again!
queenbeecook November 1, 2022
Absolutely delicious. And I’m not even a big mac and cheese fanatic.
Hiked65 October 28, 2022
Wasn't bad, but it took a few bites to enjoy it. I made it following the directions. It turned out too juicy. I placed it in a baking dish, covered it with buttered breadcrumbs, to which I added grated cheese and a 1/4 tsp. of ground sage. Baked it in the oven at 375 for 30 minutes. It came out much better. Hubby liked it. I guess that's all that matters. Will make again.
Jmghanna October 23, 2022
I like baked Mac and cheese. Could it be baked?
jessicat October 22, 2022
This was a simple recipe to make! A few things I’d change:

1) purée the butternut squash
2) reduce salt by half, especially since so much salt is doing in cheese
3) reduce sage and rosemary by at least 2/3. The look was not that appealing and the flavors overpowering in my opinion.
Christina D. October 22, 2022
Quite heavy but delicious
Eve T. October 21, 2022
I always find it funny when folks complain about cheese in a recipe. It reflects their inexperience as cooks.
If you want less cheese by all means use less. There are other ways to thicken a sauce or augment taste. But to criticize a recipe when the amounts are clearly written, well, that’s just unfair.
tary October 21, 2022
Easy and very good. Even my hubby, who was suspicious about butternut in mac and cheese, really liked it!!!
Dan F. October 20, 2022
Thinking of waiting until step 3 to add the fresh nutmeg. Thoughts?
JustMegan October 19, 2022
Just made this recipe tonight almost as written, except I had to use gouda instead of white cheddar because I couldn't find any at the store. Admittedly, the butternut squash flavor isn't prominent. Given the ingredients and amounts in this recipe I didn't go into this thinking it would be super squash heavy, and I was okay with that. (If you have some picky eaters in your house, this recipe would be excellent to hide the squash). Regardless of this, I think we have found a new favorite Mac and cheese recipe in my house! If you like a super rich, creamy and cheesy Mac and cheese then this is the recipe for you! The rosemary and sage are wonderful additions to this recipe, and break up the richness some. We ate it for dinner with a Brussel sprout salad, with a citrus vinaigrette, cranberries and pecans to add some vinegar to the meal and lighten it up. I'm already excited for the leftovers for lunch tomorrow! And my husband has requested we add this to our Thanksgiving table this year. We will definitely be making this again
food52 October 14, 2022
This was a total waste of product and time. The amount of cheese was overwhelming, couldn't even taste the Squash and that's what drew me to the recipe! Want to make this? Cut up the Squash and steam it. Make your usual cheese sauce with the herbs. Boil the pasta. Mix all together. Done.
Plus you can do it all ahead of time and throw it together when you're ready instead of standing over a pot!